Top prospect Ramirez stands out in Venezuela

Top prospect Ramirez stands out in Venezuela

Top prospect Ramirez stands out in Venezuela
SEATTLE -- While much of the talk of future Mariners pitching revolves around top Draft picks Danny Hultzen, Tai Walker and James Paxton, another name to keep an eye on is Erasmo Ramirez.

Ramirez, a 21-year-old from Nicaragua, has moved quickly up the Mariners' Minor League system the past two years and now is off to an excellent start in the Venezuela Winter League.

The 5-foot-11 right-hander is 2-1 with a 1.74 ERA in four starts for Cardenales de Lara, giving up just 17 hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts. His 0.87 WHIP is the second best in the Venezuelan League and he's fourth in ERA.

His excellent control ranks him first in the league among starters in walks per nine innings (0.44).

That command is one of the reasons he's regarded as a top prospect by the Mariners. Ramirez went 10-8 with a 4.83 ERA in splitting time between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma this past season after being named Pitcher of the Year for Class A Clinton in his first season of pro ball in 2010.

In 26 starts with Jackson and Tacoma, he walked just 32 batters in 152 2/3 innings -- or 1.9 walks per nine innings -- while striking out 116.

Yoervis Medina, another Mariners prospect for Lara, isn't faring as well with an 0-4 record and 4.58 ERA in four starts.

The Mariners are also getting mixed results from their hitting prospects in the Winter Leagues. Outfielder Carlos Peguero continues his strong showing for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican, batting .353 with a league-leading five home runs, six doubles and a .765 slugging percentage.

Peguero, who will be in contention for the Mariners' left-field job in the spring, has 11 extra-base hits among his 18 hits so far and has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games.

Two other top prospects -- third baseman Alex Liddi and outfielder Michael Saunders -- are not faring as well with Lara in the Venezuelan League.

Liddi was sent home this week after hitting just .136 (6-for-44) in his first 14 games, with one home run and four RBIs. The Mariners feel the 23-year-old is worn out after playing 153 games with 599 at-bats between Triple-A Tacoma and the Mariners this past season.

Liddi, who hit .225 with three home runs in 15 games as a late-season callup for Seattle, will be given the rest of the winter off before returning to Arizona for Spring Training in February.

Saunders continues to try to find his batting stroke for Lara, where he's hitting .178 with one home run and four RBIs in 13 games. The 25-year-old has shown some signs of life the past week, with a three-game hitting streak during which he's gone 3-for-10 with a double.

In the Arizona Fall League, the Mariners continue seeing excellent pitching from several of their prospects. Hultzen will start the AFL Rising Stars Game this Saturday for the West All-Stars after going 1-0 with a 1.62 ERA in his first five starts.

Relievers Forrest Snow and Brian Moran have also been outstanding for the Peoria Javelinas. Snow is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA, having allowed just two hits and one unearned run in 10 2/3 innings with 12 strikeouts and two walks.

Moran, a lefty out of North Carolina who pitched for Double-A Jackson this past season, picked up his first save with two scoreless innings on Wednesday in a 4-2 victory over Salt River. He's 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA over 10 1/3 innings in eight outings.

One of Moran's teammates at Jackson, outfielder Kuo Hui Lo, suffered a tough injury Wednesday while playing for Chinese Taipei against a group of Major League players in the Taiwan All-Star Series in Taichung, Taiwan.

Lo dislocated his right ankle and fractured his leg while being thrown out at home plate in the game and underwent surgery Wednesday night.

"We're still concerned about the accident at home plate," MLB manager Bruce Bochy said in a postgame news conference. "That was really a tragedy in a good ballgame."

"Hopefully [Lo] will be all right," said Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick, whose throw to the plate got Lo in the 5-3 victory for the MLB All-Stars. "It's sad to see the way that happened with a guy playing the game like it should be played -- 100 percent."

Lo appeared in 60 games for Class A High Desert and Double-A Jackson in 2011, batting .254 with 12 doubles, four triples, five home runs and 29 RBIs, but had four trips to the disabled list with forearm, elbow and thumb injuries.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.